There are many gorgeous places to visit in California. This in my opinion is one of the most beautiful states in the United States of America. California has a lot to offer to any kind of traveler.
California is known to be evergreen throughout the year – every season always looks beautiful there. However, if you ask me summer is the best season to visit California. Flowers blossom elegantly and the weather is just perfect, bound to guarantee a fabulous getaway.
The best places to visit in California during the summer are quite numerous and intriguing. However, those inland and in the central valley may be best avoided during those months, as the temperatures are blasting.
Furthermore, destinations like the San Francisco, San Diego or Los Angeles may not exactly be ideal during summer – what with traffic, crowds and what not. Your best bet for a great summer holiday in California is either the mountains or the coast.
In this post, I highlight the 10 best places to visit in California where you should head for your summer holidays. At the end of the post, I share some useful tips to plan your trip there.
Looking for more things to do in California? Make sure to read my post “15 Unmissable Things To Do In California.”
The 10 Best Places To Visit In California For A Great Getaway
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks
Sequoia is one of the best places to visit in California during the summer, significantly less crowded than Yosemite, and as such a very good alternative to the most famous park in California. That’s the season when you will have full sight of what this national park is all about. In Sequoia National Park you will get to see the largest trees in the world. Summer is by far the best season to camp there – which you really should be doing for full enjoyment.
Summer is also an excellent time to explore Kings Canyon National Park, where one of the deepest canyons in North America is located. This is a great place to admire wildlife – if you are lucky, you can spot bears and even cougars.
Another place in California that is best explored in the summer is Lake Tahoe. During this season you will find mild temperatures during the day, and nice and cool ones at night. It’s a much better place to visit than the boiling hot Central Valley!
In Lake Tahoe you will have no shortage of things to do – though you can surely relax there, this is a place to go in search of the most fun-filled activities. From hiking to mountain biking to boating and more water sports, this is the place to go if you are looking for action. If you visit, make sure to stop by the Donner Memorial State Park and Museum, a small museum opened in 2015 to portray the history and experience of emigrants.
You can even go on a photographic tour of Lake Tahoe. Book yours here.
Pismo Beach may well have everything you are looking for in a summer getaway. There is a small downtown with plenty of souvenir shops and local restaurants; a gorgeous beach where you can hang out, go sunbathing, enjoy swimming in the ocean. You can even rent an ATV to explore the beach.
TIP: If you intend to visit Pismo Beach, make sure to book your hotel in advance as this an increasingly popular destination!
If you enjoy a little bit of culture and history during your trip, then you will love visiting Monterey. There you will find several museums and art galleries; a beautiful aquarium; and an excellent selection of good restaurants. Monterey is also home to great beaches.
TIP: Since Monterey is one of the most famous places to visit in California during the summer, make sure to book your stay in advance.
TIP: Try to visit Monterey on weekdays, as it will be less crowded.
Located at the southern end of the Cascade Range in Siskiyou County, Mount Shasta is a potentially active volcano and one of the best places to visit in California, especially if you enjoy nature and outdoor activities. Needless to say, summer is a great time to visit, for you will be able to go hiking, biking and camping. There are various good hotels and camping sites in Mount Shasta, so there will be no shortage of good places to stay.
TIP: If you like fishing, make sure to spend some time at Lake Siskiyou.
Santa Catalina Island
If you like action, you won’t be disappointed by Santa Catalina Island. This island off the coast of California offers all sorts of adventurous activities, such as zip lining, as well as things for nature and wildlife lovers such as dolphin watching cruises. You will be able to go sunbathing, swimming, snorkeling, stand up paddle boarding, camping, boating, horse riding and much more.
And if you are in need of something a bit more sophisticated, head to the many museums and art galleries on the island. There is so much to see and do that it definitely should be mentioned as one of the best places to visit in California.
Anaheim is a small city outside Los Angeles, in Orange County. It is best known as the home of Disneyland Resort. It is the best place to visit as a family during summer. But the Disney themed park isn’t the only place you should visit there!
If you enjoy the ocean, make sure to head to Huntington Beach. This beautiful beach is perfect for surfing.
But there is more! If you are in search of a bit of culture, you will find some interesting museums. A few minutes drive from Anaheim you will find Santa Ana, home of The Discovery Cube Orange County, which was once known as the Discovery Science Center and the Taco Bell Discovery Science Center.
If science is not your thing, head to the Bowers Museum, which has a great art collection.
Among the best places to visit in California it is worth mentioning Santa Barbara. This is the kind of place where no matter your taste in travel you can find something you will enjoy. Great beaches and coves? Check. Good weather? Definitely check. Culture, history and art? Once again, check.
One of the things you are bound to love in Santa Barbara is the presence of Spanish Colonial Revival Style architecture. Head to Casa Del Herrero and the Old Mission for great examples of it.
If you are in search for something a bit more active, you will find plenty of rock climbing, hiking, kayaking, cycling, boating, fishing opportunities. And if you are in search of good wine, you will find it no shortage of it in the surrounding vineyards, where you will have plenty of chances to go wine tasting.
For a fabulous wine tasting tour of Santa Barbara, click here.
You will have heard of Santa Monica from movies and TV series, and will definitely know it’s one of the places where Hollywood celebrities love to live. Other than that, it is a great place to visit.
Among the places to visit in Santa Monica, don’t skip Santa Monica Pier and the Pacific Pier. You will have a chance to go surfing or – waves permitting – stand up paddle. And you will find plenty of excellent dining opportunities.
TIP: Santa Monica is a fantastic place to go for a romantic getaway.
San Clemente Beach Coastal Trail
Also located in Orange County, San Clemente Beach Coastal Trail is a roughly 3 km trail that gives access to the shoreline of San Clemente. It’s open every day from roughly 4:00 am to midnight, and you can easily walk it, bike it or run it and get to access San Clemente beach and Calafia beach.
It’s a favorite of locals as well as tourists, so a great place where you will find a mixed crowd.
Useful Information To Plan Your Trip To California
Getting a visa for the United States
Before even considering a summer trip to California, you should ask yourself: “Do I need an ESTA to travel to the USA from UK?”
Yes, you do. ESTA is a total compulsory requirement for UK citizens (in fact, for all citizens of the European Union) to visit USA. The ESTA actually is an authorization that allows the British citizens or nationals to visit or pass through the United States. It lasts for just 90 days; after which it expires.
Getting to California
California is well connected to the rest of Europe via direct flights from most capital cities and not only. The cheapest flights are those to Los Angeles, so I would suggest to look into those first.
Moving around California
California calls for a road trip! This is the kind of place where you should rent a car and drive around endlessly, especially if you have time. You can check the prices of car rental here.
To better prepare for your road trip, head over to my post “13 Road Trip Essentials For The Perfect Summer Road Trip.”
Other useful information
As always, I strongly advise you to get a good travel insurance for all your trips. Get yours here.
Check out my post “Why You Need A Good Travel Insurance.”
For more readings about California, you can also check one of these books:
- DK Eyewitness Guide California
- Lonely Planet California Travel Guide
- Fodor’s California with the best road trips
For more places to visit and things to do in the United States, read my posts:
- A Great Itinerary For 3 Days In San Francisco
- 10 Things To Do For A Fabulous Trip To Miami
- 13 Classic Things To Do In New York City
- Seven Adrenaline Filled Things To Do In Yellowstone
Legal Disclaimer: This post was written in cooperation with Esta Visa USA. Needless to say, the views expressed are my own.